Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court has ruled that every member of a rioting mob is guilty of the offence committed by some of its constituents, while maintaining that cases related to communal riots require "very careful handling."
A division bench of justices K S Jhaveri and G B Shah said this in their order given on February 11, which was uploaded recently on the High Court's official website, while reducing life sentence to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment for seven convicts in a communal riot case of 2003.
"Law is abundantly clear that if an offence is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in furtherance of the common object of that assembly, every member of that unlawful assembly is guilty of that offence.
"Specific overt act of each member of unlawful assembly need not be proved when the accused are proved to be members of that assembly," the court said.
The court passed the order after hearing seven persons who had in 2006 challenged the order of a lower court which had sentenced them to life imprisonment in murder, dacoity and rioting case.
On November 7, 2003, a mob of around 1500 people had gathered at Shah Alam area of the city where they murdered one Mukesh Panchal whose body was recovered from Chandola lake of the city. They also assaulted and looted other passers-by.
The lower court had convicted seven persons to life sentence. The March 17, 2006 judgement was then challenged in High Court.
"After appreciating the entire evidence on record, we are unable to accept the contention advanced by learned counsel for the appellants (accused persons) that the accused were merely passive onlookers who joined the mob out of curiosity and they had no intention and did not share the common object of the unlawful assembly," the court said.
"In our considered opinion, the common intention of the appellants was writ large that they wanted to create havoc in different areas of the city and to fill terror in the minds of people. In pursuance of this common object, the accused persons killed the deceased besides injuring other people and causing damage to public as well as private properties," it added.
The court delivered its judgment while maintaining that, "riots, resulting in serious injuries or even death, are of frequent occurrence in this state and cases relating to such riots require very careful handling."
"There is, moreover, great danger of innocent persons being implicated along with the guilty, owing to the tendency of the parties, in such cases, to try to implicate falsely, as many of their enemies, as they can," the court maintained.